Jacksboro’s downtown businesses were hit hard by the pandemic and the resulting decrease in visits to our shopping areas. Our EDC immediately offered short-term help in the form of grants to help businesses pay bills and keep the lights on, but we knew we needed to do more.
The crisis of 2020 was one point in a decline in downtown Jacksboro that we had seen coming. To try to reverse this trend, in the spring we took the initiative to survey both downtown businesses and their customers to discover needs and gaps in satisfaction. Applying the motto, “the only way you grow is if you know,” we shared some hard truths with our local businesses: Regardless of the state of the pandemic, customers wanted more convenient access to shopping—night-time and weekend hours and online portals. To keep business in our community and keep potential customers from looking elsewhere for their needs, we needed to modernize.
To make this happen, we also needed to collaborate. We needed collaboration among local businesses, we needed collaboration among city and county leaders, and we needed to bring the community together around a vision for success. Here’s what we did:
- We established the first-ever Jacksboro Downtown Merchants Association. Although in the past, there were casual relationships between businesses, there was no cohesiveness. Our first meeting of this group was immediately impactful, with enthusiasm for the association and openness to new ideas.
- We engaged The Retail Coach to help bring our businesses up to speed regarding web presences and social media. The EDC was able to finance this help, providing instruction, website-building, and coaching that our local businesses would not have been able to afford on their own. Many of our downtown merchants can now tap into markets that were not previously available to them. Not only can our local customers shop with more convenience, we can also begin to attract customers from outside of Jacksboro and our region.
- We are working to make our downtown more attractive. Based on feedback from our survey, we know that shoppers care about the physical environments they visit. The EDC can help with funds to give our downtown a facelift and ready for a post-COVID experience.
We continue to work together. Officials from the city, the county, the Chamber, and the EDC are all on the same page and excited about working toward the long-term goal of becoming a Texas Main Street city and the immediate goals of serving the needs of our citizens and businesses.
We think we have helped our community see more clearly what we need to do and how to be successful. Instead of perfect 20-20 vision, we are looking at our community with improved “20-21” vision that takes into account the need to be ready for the future and whatever challenges we face in this new year.
Community Leaders Speak is a series of writings prompted by the discussions during IC2 Regional XLR8 Program which convenes 150 leaders from 58 communities across all regions of Texas, September – October 2020. As a part of the IC2 Regional Economic Recovery Initiative, Regional XLR8 is a new type of “accelerator” that helps communities rethink recovery, take strategic action, and build resilience. During this intensive 6-week program, leaders actively engaged in full & regional group discussions around human-centered approaches.